Opinion Former Article

BHA: New 2011 English and Welsh Census figures on religion released

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has released a more detailed breakdown of findings from the 2011 Census in England and Wales. The new figures show demographic changes in relation to religion, compared to age, sex, ethnicity, country of birth and economic activity. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the new figures.

The Census results were first released in December 2011, and overall show that the percentage of people ticking ‘Christian’ in response to the question ‘What is your religion?’ has declined from 71% of the population in 2001 to 59% in 2011. At the same time, the number ticking ‘no religion’ increased from 15% to 25%. This change followed on from the BHA’s Census Campaign, which encouraged the non-religious to tick the ‘no religion’ box in order to help counteract the leading nature of the question – which assumed that respondents have a religion and (in its position on the form) encouraged respondents to record people to respond based on their upbringing, not belief or practice.

Among other points, the new data shows that the number of UK-born Christians decreased by 5.3 million since the 2001 Census, but Christianity’s overall decline was slowed as this was topped up by 1.2 million Christian immigrants. At the same time, the number of UK-born people with no religion increased by 5.8 million and the number of immigrants with no religion increased by 0.5 million.

The results also showed a particular decline in the number of Christians among young people, reinforcing that Christians are generally much older than those of no religion. 39% of those with no religion are under 25 while 42% are 25-49. These figures are 26% and 31%, respectively, for Christians.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The new analysis confirms that the future for the UK is a non-religious one. Most young people are non-religious and the religious proportion of the population is only being topped up by older people whose religion is generation-related rather than age-related and patterns of immigration which are unlikely to continue. Our social institutions, public policy and the way we think about our society and national identity has to catch up with this massive cultural shift.’

Notes
For further comment or information please contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or at andrew@humanism.org.uk.

Read today’s findings: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/detailed-characteristics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/index.html

Read the BHA’s comments from the initial release of the results last December: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/12/11/census-results-show-huge-shift-in-cultural-identity-from-christianity-to-no-religion/

Visit the Census Campaign website: http://census-campaign.org.uk/

View our analysis of the results: http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/census-2011/census-2011-results/

Read other surveys and statistics on religion or belief: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-surveys-statistics

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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